Even before the 1973 oil crisis, the Big Three had started to see competition from foreign shores. They took the “invasion” by VW and the Japanese makers seriously enough that they decided to try and make their own small cars to compete. Well, we all know how things went for the likes of the Vega and Pinto, right? It seems that the design experience and of building large, rear-drive cars for the North American market didn’t just scale-down all that well. This led to some legendary and embarrassing failures, often involving heat or fire, interestingly enough. The front end of the Vegas tended to melt down (Oh, early GM-corner-cut Aluminum blocks…) and we all know about the Pinto’s reported tendency to catch fire.
Despite this, the Big 3 kept on keeping on with their small cars. However, they wisely decided not to do this with their trucks. In North America, pickups and vans were for work; they were heavily built, largely bare-bones vehicles for hauling. They weren’t, unlike today, any kind of status symbol and there really wasn’t much thought given to them as everyday commuter and city vehicles. If you wanted a small urban delivery vehicle or hauler, there were wagons of the Pinto and Vega. However, not everyone wanted this, but there was no domestic option for those who wanted a light-duty, city-ready pickup truck.
It was this market that the Japanese trucks like the Datsun 620 and Toyota Hi-Lux/Pickup (gotta love that original second name) were targeting, and they were targeting it successfully. The Big 3 wanted to get in on this emerging market, but as I said they wisely decided not to just try and shrink down their existing products. Instead, they each took the same route, and that was the way of the “captive import”. Ford imported a Mazda truck and called in the Courier. Dodge brought over a Mitsubishi Triton and called it the D-50 (mind you, they did this much later than Ford and GM did). Chevy went to GM’s Japanese partner Isuzu and brought over their Faster. However, they gang at Chevy decided to call the new pickup the LUV, short for Light Utility Vehicle. It was small, cute and LUV seemed like a good name for it. Lets’ face it, BRAT is no weirder an acronym, right?
The LUV was offered with a 1.8L inline four engine, which gave the little truck the power to move but not to do so with any great rapidity. With only 80 hp and an available automatic, you can imagine this thing wasn’t going to win any races. Still, the LUV was an attractive truck, was perfect for city use and sold well enough that it stayed around until the S-10 debuted in 1982. Throughout its life, the little LUV was subjected to various improvements, one of which was the “Mikado” trim. This was an upscale interior trim package that gave you full-width seats in a gingham pattern (in saddle, blue or red) with matching door panels (now that’s a treat for the eyes!), carpet on the floor and door kick panel, and a sporty three-spoke steering wheel. In addition, you got “leather-like” covering (so… Naugahyde, then?) on the shifter knob and steering wheel, and “Mikado” script on the rear fender.
Note: The interior could also be had in knit vinyl in saddle or blue. That’s important for later. Trust me.
Of course, this was the ‘70s, and you couldn’t expect to sell a vehicle to the youth market without gaudy striping and decal packages. The Trans Am had set the bar impossibly high with its iconic “flaming chicken”, and so everyone had to struggle to at least stay in the game. Chevy make sure the LUV played along, by offering the “Mighty Mike” decal package. This consisted of a bunch of wide hood and body-side stripes (Of course!!) in either a white-blue-black fade or, coming as no surprise, a “sunset” scheme of yellow-orange-red-black fade. I’ve seen examples on the net of the “sunset” version, but have only ever seen the white/blue/black in the ’77 brochure. I wonder if it was ever real? Like most cars with outlandish decals, there was nothing done to help the actual performance of the Mighty Mike, and in reality, it was no more mighty than it’s undecalled brethren.
Strangely, while MPC kitted both the Datsun 620 and the Dodge D50 and Revell kitted the Courier, and all could be built stock, the LUV never received such respect. There were kits of the LUV to be sure, but they were all customized. First there was the Mojave Mule version, then there was the Monogram 1/24 LUV Street Machine camper and the 1/24 LUV Stepside, but none of these were stock. There was the decidedly non-stock High Roller version of the Monogram LUV too. In addition, there was the Revell 1/25 offerings, one of which was the highly customized “LUV Machine”; actually, all the Revells were this same kit, just with different decals, colours and boxings.
There’s never been a proper, stock kit of the LUV, and there’s never been one issued with the proper Mighty Mike decals. Well, as of now, that has been partially rectified. For reasons unbeknownst to me, Revell has taken it upon itself to reissue the LUV Street Pickup for the modern age, and this time, it comes with almost correct Mighty Mike decals! The bad part, though, is it’s still a custom truck. So, what is this kit and how does it look? Let’s find out, shall we?
The new LUV Street Pickup comes blazing at you in a brand-new box. Revell clearly doesn’t buy into the whole “retro box” trend, and this box looks as modern as it is. Oddly, the LUV itself only takes up about a quarter to a third of the box’s surface area. The huge white letters telling you this is indeed a Chevy LUV Street Pickup are all across the top in a “can’t miss this” stream of block capital letters. Below, and behind, that is an amazingly rugged nature scene with ancient-looking moss-covered rocks, a waterfall and clearly massive, old-growth forest. There’s a lake in the front left corner, and the beach in front of all this grand scenery is where the action happens. There’s also a canoe in the foreground and a tent in the background. It’s country that looks powerful yet serene, ancient and undiscovered, unspoiled and remote. Then, on the beach is parked the reason we came here, the bright yellow Chevy LUV Street Pickup!
The LUV is bright yellow (a stock colour) with the full-on Mighty Mike “sunset” decals, in-your face turbine wheels, side pipes, custom air dam and a camper top on the back of it. Of course, no street truck would be complete without a mural, and there’s a desert scene in beautiful orange/yellow tones (with black) to complement the Mighty Mike decals. It’s definitely a child of its era, this cocky, over-done, gaudy, bright beacon of ‘70s tastelessness.
The LUV itself is as loud, garish and unnatural as the background is stately and free of humanity’s influence. Is this juxtaposition intended? It had better be, because it’s jarring as hell. Really, I have to say I don’t like the box for some reason. For one thing, it looks off. It looks TOO realistic, like someone turned the resolution on reality up to 4K; things are TOO crisp and it looks falsely layered. It’s not a horrible job of Photoshopping (better than I can do), but it has a “school project” look to it. It just doesn’t work on that level. However, on a deeper level, putting this kind of truck on this kind of background makes no sense. It looks completely out of its element, and the fact it’s perfectly clean having gotten this far into the wilderness just smacks of falseness.
I personally really wanted this kit. I mean, it’s a LUV, of course I wanted it. However, the box art is so visually and logically disjointed that I almost put it back. Yes, that’s right, the box art almost killed it for me. Now, we all know to look beyond the box, but seriously, it would have made a lot more sense to draw this truck against a rockin’ ‘70s disco background, or a street scene, or even on a beach with surfers and other ‘70s beach stuff going on (bongs, I assume… and camp fires, and unsafe dune buggies). The background chosen for this box art is just wrong, and it doesn’t make the subject look cool, it makes it stick out and seem odd, if not downright wrong. This is a ‘70s street machine, and that carries a lot of mental baggage; a tent and a canoe are not part of that luggage, however.
The side of the box, thankfully, is far better. It is just white, with pics of the kit on it. This I can handle, because now the LUV can speak for itself, without worrying that Paul Bunyan is going to pop up and use it as a roller skate. There are pictures of the truck from the front and rear three-quarters, a look at the chassis and engine bay, a view of the truck with the topper off and a close up on those oh-so-period (and wicked) turbine wheels. Based on what I see, there are a few red lights and alarms going off already, but we’ll get to that later.
The other side of the box is a small write up in three languages (English, French and Spanish) and a paint guide. There are no pictures on this side, so I didn’t waste the time shooting it.
Breaking the LUV out of its box, the age of the kit really hits home. This is pure ‘70s Monogram stuff right here. There aren’t that many parts to the kit, and there are a lot of things that are moulded together. The kit is moulded in white, although the inside of the roof gives two part numbers showing it used to come in cream and light blue. That was a big Monogram thing; putting different part numbers for different colours. I’ve seen that on some of their Snap-Tite kits, too. The plastic feels strong, but it also feels like it’s going to be a bear to sand. Seeing that this is a Monogram, I’m sure there will be some sanding required… The moulding is not terrible, but there are some nasty rough spots where the cab and box came off the runners. They’ll need work.
The cab and bed are separate, as you might expect, and oddly, the back wall of the cab is a separate piece. Sadly, it is just flat, and doesn’t have the proper “corrugations” of the real truck. This may be an issue if you choose to do something other than use the pickup bed. Also, the bed has full-length “benches” on either side. The stock LUV would just have fender-well bulges. You can chalk this up to the fact it’s a custom truck, but it’s one more thing that will prevent you from “stockifying” this kit. The side rails with cargo tiedowns are actually very nicely rendered, though, and a rough fit of the camper top to the bad is DEAD NUTS. I’ve never seen a Monogram piece fit that well! Sadly, that means it won’t fit once lots of paint is on there.
The interior bucket is small and simple, but then again so is the interior on the real truck. Oddly, for a custom truck, the interior is basically stock. There’s a bench seat, and I think it’s supposed to represent the knitted vinyl, but it’s not quite right. The door panels are hyper-simplified, too, without armrests, door pulls or the correct patterning. The dashboard is simple, too, with two instrument “pods” and a glove box. This is legit, as the real truck was not a superbly luxurious vehicle and the dashboards were basic. Amazingly, the dash does have the appropriate “Mikado” script on it! However, the detail on the dash is WAAAAY too soft. The pods for the instruments should have bigger edges and be deeper, and both the instruments and the glove box should be more ‘recessed’ from the edges of the entire unit. Again, not a surprise that a Monogram of this era isn’t as detailed as it could be, but it is unfortunate.
The camper top/bed cover is pretty simple, too, but it’s cool that it has a skylight hole that can be cut into the roof. Interestingly, and distressingly, the box shows portholes on the side of the camper top, but there are none on the one in the kit. Nor are there markings for them. There is a heavily moulded ridge that I believe is a “corral” for the decal that has the mural on it. Overall, I can’t say I like that, either. It’s a weird feature, and I don’t know if a real topper would have a ridge like that. On one hand, you can assume the topper did, and the guy painted the mural to fit. I can handle that. On the other hand, if the ridge is there just to guide decal placement, then it’s an insulting and unnecessary eyesore, and that pisses me off. Now… if you chrome it, and it looks like an extension of the cab’s drip rail… then there’s a chance it will look pretty good. Thank goodness it’s a custom!
Being a Monogram, the engine bay is highly simplified, and it contains, of course, some traditional “melty” accessories. If you’ve seen my take on the GTA you know I HATE melty stuff in the engine bay. However, I will admit to being pleasantly surprised; the ‘melt’ is not as bad on this kit as some later ones. The battery is on a “shelf”, so it’s not melted, and there are a couple of other accessory boxes that are likewise “mounted”. There’s even a bit of wiring detail, but the bay is pretty largely empty, and what’s in there doesn’t match what I see the real thing should look like. There’s also nothing on the firewall. Nothing. No master cylinder, no nothing.
Equally unsurprising is the fact that this kit has the frame and chassis moulded as one, including the spare tire well and the gas tank. Amazingly, the exhaust and driveline are separate! Of course, the diff and rear leaf springs are indeed one-piece and include the driveshaft, with the front suspension being equally simplified. This is not a Tamiya undercarriage, folks!
Now, since we’re talking “one piece” things, it’s natural to talk of the engine. Yes, as you might have figured, this is a typical Monogram engine; that means the filter and starter are moulded in and there aren’t a lot of separate accessories. What was nice to see was engine texture! This is pretty much on par with an MPC engine, so well done Monogram! Sadly the engine is a V8 (The box says it’s a 262 – no clue if that’s right.) and that’s your only option. So, right away, you know you can’t build this thing stock. That’s actually not terrible, though, because there are also no stock wheels, tires, exhaust, bed, rear bumper or back cab wall in the model.
The tires are pretty much non-descript. They are not lettered, which I find surprising given the age of the original kit. In fact, when I look at an image of the old LUV Street Pickup, they WERE lettered at one point. That makes a lot more sense, and I’m a bit disappointed that they’re not on this issue. They’re also of two different widths, so this thing is super-streetified, having wider rear tires than the front ones. They’ve got enough flash that you’re going to have to give them a going-over with a sanding stick, too. What surprises me is that they’re quite low-profile, and given the large rims they actually give the truck a surprisingly modern vibe. Again… not sure if I like that, but it is what it is.
The glass rack is very large, and includes front and rear cab glass, a sunroof for the cab and the skylight for the topper, the topper front windows and the entire rear of the topper! If you want to open the topper up, you can, which is nice. However, you’ll have to mask and paint the rear window to have it look right, as the entire gate is clear. Since there is a separate piece tailgate, you might be tempted to open the whole rear end up. However, this won’t work, since the tailgate, if the piece is glued ‘down’, will expose the hollow fender structure. Also on the glass rack are the portholes for the camper top! FML. This means you either have to precisely measure and cut a hole for them, leave them off, or glue them to the outside of the truck. None of those are good options. Sadly, the headlights are the “glass on a post” type, which means the post will show. My advice: chrome the lights and give them a very light coat of white. Then you won’t see this.
Interestingly, the tail lights are cast clear as well, not clear red. I was surprised by this. One other thing that surprised me was that the lights ran horizontally under the tailgate. Most of the LUVs you see have them vertically at the edges. I thought that meant this was a custom touch. However, it’s not. There were LUVS that could get this tail light treatment. I haven’t been able to figure out if it’s just an option, or why it was like that, but some of the original LUVs had two round tail lights under the gate, and some later ones had lights like this kit. That’s a neat touch, that Monogram used the rarer bed for their kit, but it also makes it a bit sadder you can’t go full stock. However, I’ve never seen a Mighty Mike with this tail light treatment. Does that mean it couldn’t happen? No clue. I just wanted to pass on that the rear end treatment was, actually, legit!
Last, but not least, is the chrome rack. This has the front bumper, grille (most of which would not be chrome, as correctly shown on the box illustration) and rear step/bumper, as well as the pipes and various other bits. The chrome is well done and very shiny, but since I’m going to have to strip it anyway, it makes little difference. Still, it looks nice in the box.
Origins and Outcomes:
So, what is this kit? Well, if you’re like me, you probably thought it’s a straight reissue of the old LUV Street Pick-Up. (You know, the white one.) It has the same camper top, wheels and pipes. However, the undernose spoiler/air dam is different. On the old white one, it’s rounded and brings to mind a bib at Red Lobster. This was also used on the High Roller, but Mojave Mule (I think) and the Stepsider had a different air dam with two hangy-down “flaps”, if you will. That’s like the new truck. At least on the box. In reality, you actually get a choice, since both pieces are in the box! So, really, this kit is a hybrid; it has the air dams of both kits, and the camper top of the one. It does not contain the roll bar, boxes or window bars of the Mojave Mule, although I’m actually quite surprised by that. All this, and a completely new set of decals as well.
Sadly, as I mentioned, the customization of the truck is too complete to easily build it stock. The engine, first and foremost, is wrong. I don’t know where you source an Isuzu 4 cylinder, especially since most Japanese car kits are curbsiders. Then, there’s the front end; it’s got the air dam. You could cut it off, but even then I’m not sure the roll pan is quite right. Even more extreme is the lack of stock rear bumper, and the inclusion of the long, diamond-plate rear bumper, step. Don’t forget the wheels and tires are custom, too, and that the steering wheel is not the 3-spoke Mikado one, but an aftermarket 4-spoker.
Complicating life are the fender flares. You could grind them off, but even if you did, and managed to get the fenders back looking stock, the Mighty Mike decals would then be wrong. Why? They’re sized to contour around the new flares, and there will be a gap between them and the fender openings if everything’s corrected. So, clearly, there’s no easy route to a stock LUV out of this kit. That’s unfortunate, and I would have liked to have seen Revell take the time to make new parts to do this. This is totally unrealistic, mind you. That much I get.
Instructions and Decals:
The instructions are okay, middle of the road instructions. Given the low part count of the kit, they’re more than sufficient. You’re not building a full-out engine with a million separate parts (MPC-style) nor are you assembling a complex suspension with many individual components that all have to be aligned. Things here are largely in halves or fewer parts. There is a call out in text about the bib-type front air dam, but there’s nothing shown in the instructions, pictorially, about it going in. the two skylights are called out as options, as are the portholes (such as they are) on the camper sides.
The decals, I’ll admit, are cool. I love that, while not quite right, the guys are Revell went out of their way to finally give us the Mighty Mike decals. It’s like my Citation; it took three iterations of the kit before it had correct decals, and it took even longer for the LUV. The decals are amazing. They’re atypical of Revell Germany decals in that they are glossy. Thank your God-of-choice for that! I’m used to Revell Germany’s matte-finished military decals, and I HATE them. They silver far more than they ought to. These should go on nicely. There is almost zero decal film around them, too. This is really impressive, and I tip my hat to Revell for making such nice decals that will help make doing the striping easier. I say this, because extra film would make the fit of the Might Mike decals around the flares (and the gas cap) very dodgy and difficult. I actually foresee this problem being completely eliminated by the lack of decal film.
The stripes are great because they even have the pinstriping around the “Mighty Mike” blocks! There are instrument dial decals, which is good considering how darned shallow the gauges are. They’ll really help a lot. What I didn’t get at first was why there was a green “alien head” sticker, and why the plates are “Area 52” and “Ros * Wel”. Huh? Then I took a closer look at the mural. I’d never stopped to check it out, just thinking it was a period piece of “desert landscape”. It is, but it has UFOs in it!! WTF?? Seriously? How cracked-out is that?! I love it. I mean LOVE it, capital LUV-love! That is so friggin’ awesome. It takes it from the normal ‘70s craziness to a whole separate, other, surreal level. Good. Work. Revell. A closer look at the white version shows what appear to be UFO graphics on its mural too. Why are LUVS and UFOs related? Who knows, maybe because they’re both “aliens” to North American shores? Regardless, I commend Revell for this nostalgic nod to the original, while staying “in character” with the ‘70s vibe.
There are also a set of white body-side stripes that go right from front to back. I don’t know what they are. They look like they’ll fit beautifully, but I can’t find any evidence of any LUV ever having had them. It’s so weird, and if anyone knows what they are, I’d be happy to find out! There are also black and white “Chevrolet” writing for the tailgate, so you can choose depending on your colour scheme.
The rise of the mini-truck in the 1970’s was the perfect time for the Big 3 to make use of captive imports. The success of these new small trucks proved the soundness of the idea, and, as we know, the light pickup was a pretty major force in the automotive world for quite some time. Given the propensity for customization that ran rampant in the ‘70s, it’s no surprise that there were many real and model Street Trucks. It’s also no surprise there were a goodly number of kits of this segment’s major players, and that the LUV got it’s share of styrene love.
However, those days are long gone, and I think most of us figured that the Monogram LUV was gone with them. While Round 2 has a propensity for repopping the “long-thought-lost”, Revell is not usually one to go play this game. This is especially true of the many, many weird and obscure kits Monogram put out on the ‘70s and ‘80s. However, Revell has really gone the distance on this one, producing a “never was” retro kit with modern decals and improved realism, where it was possible. I think, in a way, this points to the rise of retro modelling as a major hobby force. Just like the Big 3 had to bring in the captive imports, Revell had to use its own “captive” – the ancient Monogram LUV – in order to grab some market share from Round 2. As far as I’m concerned, this is good news for anyone who loves old chestnuts and weird subjects!
Now, that having been said, this kit shows its age, and badly. Monogram’s kits from this era are not paragons of detail, and the LUV falls squarely into that category. With the inability to be built stock, the LUV is a bit disappointing. Add to this a less-than detailed engine bay and drivetrain, cheap non-portholes and I’m sure a fit that hasn’t improved with age, and you’re looking at a kit that isn’t exactly going to be one that goes down without a fight. Just like its predecessors, though, it’s not a bad kit for a beginner; it’s simple and strong, and with the colourful decals, it’d make a neat display piece even for the inexperienced. However, this kit is going to need some TLC to drag the most out of it that you can, so if you’re wanting to make this a true show-rod truck, then you’d better be ready to invest some time, love and elbow grease.
For me, the stock variant always comes first (unless it doesn’t – don’t judge me!). However, this can’t be stock. In a way, that’s better. Now I can just treat it like a mini-street van kit – build it full on, full-out custom! In a way, that’s a nice bit of freedom that I don’t normally get to experience. I can just go crazy, and you can too!
Overall, while it’s a definite product of its age, and the original source material isn’t as good as a lot of its contemporaries, the LUV Street Pickup is still a cool kit to get. Revell should be congratulated on taking a chance on this somewhat obscure subject, and reissuing something we likely figured would never again see the light of day. I intend to have some fun with this one, and I’d encourage you all to give it some LUV-love as well!